Q. What does one do about friends who consistently date the wrong men? You know the ones. They’re so afraid of being alone that they’ll take whatever guy comes their way and then stick with them through thick and thin, no matter what awful, disrespectful things he does to them. And even though they knew in the first place that it wasn’t going to work, they got attached to the idea of being with this person and now can’t let it go or stop talking about their relationship problems incessantly to their friends, especially after a breakup?
I’ve learned to just ignore it and let them make their own mistakes – it’s not my place to play Florence Nightingale – but it bothers me that I see some of them consistently making the same mistake over and over again and it hurts them, and it takes time away from finding a real partnership based on friendship, trust and mutual respect.
A. I know the ones, alright – and you’re right, they’re really messing things up for themselves. (Although you’ve gotta admit, the trainwreck can be awfully fun to watch! Especially if a) you don’t particularly like the person, and b) there are cocktails involved.)
But of course, since it’s your friends we’re talking about, the whole misery-as-spectator-sport thing doesn’t apply here. Nobody enjoys seeing a person they love in pain, even if the pain is self-made. And while jumping into the mucky morass of someone else’s relationship problems is never a good idea, it’s still really hard to stand up there above the Pit of Despair, watching a good friend wallowing around in the depths, and then (to really beat this metaphor to death) biting your tongue when she keeps climbing out and complaining to you that she’s all covered in filth.
Which is why it’s a good thing that you don’t always have to stay silent. Because while you can’t make a friend’s decisions for her, you are in a position to help her improve her decision-making process – which is certainly worthwhile, especially if you care about her, and even more especially when the alternative is forever watching her shoot herself in the foot.
So, the next time a friend wants to talk about her self-inflicted catastrophe of a romantic life, get her to answer the tough questions she ought to be asking herself… by, y’know, asking them. Yourself.
Ask her what would happen if things could work out exactly as she wanted. Ask her whether she thinks that outcome is possible. When a new guy enters the picture, ask her if he makes her happy – and when you see her rationalizing unforgivable behavior out of fear of being alone, don’t just bite your tongue. Ask her how it makes her feel. Ask her how she would feel if you told her about a guy doing the same thing to you. Ask her whether she really thinks that being treated like this is better than being alone. Ask her what she wants you to say when she seems to be talking herself into an unhealthy situation.
Basically, ask her to think honestly about what she wants, and whether her current track is going to help her get it. You can’t force an outcome, but you can get your friend to look at her options through a less-clouded lens. And once you’ve gently pointed someone in the direction of the truth, she’s got a much better chance of stumbling across it on her own.
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